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House of Guise

House of Guise: French ducal family, primarily responsible for the French Wars of Religion.

Founded as a branch of the House of Lorraine by Claude de Lorraine, first Duke of Guise, 1496-1563, whom King François I made a Duke. Claude’s daughter, Mary of Guise (1515-1560), married King James V of Scotland and was mother of Mary Queen of Scots.

Claude’s sons were:

  • 1) François de Lorraine, 2nd Duke of Guise, 1519-1563;
  • 2) Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine, 1525-1574,

In 1588, King François II, married Mary Queen of Scots. By 1559, she had her two powerful uncles of the House of Guise appointed to high positions in the French government. This prompted the Conspiracy of Amboise[?] in which the Huguenots and the House of Bourbon plotted to usurp the power of the House of Guise. Charles, in his powerful capacity as a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, controlled French politics during the short reign of the sickly young king, François II.

Championing Catholicism against the Huguenots, in 1560, the Guise family brutally put down the Conspiracy of Amboise[?]. After King François' death they opposed the more tolerant policy of the Regent, Catherine de Medici, and their doings provoked the French Wars of Religion.

The House of Guise, led by François, defeated the Huguenots at the battle of Dreux, but he was assassinated shortly afterward. His son, Henri de Lorraine, became the third Duke of Guise, 1550-1588. He helped plan the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and was responsible for the formation of the Catholic League. Immensely ambitious, in 1588 he instigated a revolt against King Henri III, taking control of the city of Paris, becoming the defacto king.

After an apparent conciliation, in December of 1588 King Henri III had both Henri de Lorraine and his brother, Louis de Lorraine, Cardinal of Guise (1555-1558), murdered during a meeting in the Royal Chateau at Blois. Leadership of the Catholic League fell to their brother, Charles, Duke of Mayenne who was commander of the armed forces of the Catholic League.

After King Henri III, had his brother murdered, the Duke of Mayenne became head of the Catholic League. Although Mayenne and other members of the House of Guise had murdered, tortured and wreaked havoc on the lives of many French citizens, for the sake of the country King Henri IV bought peace with him and in January of 1596 a treaty was signed that put an end to the League.



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